“…Instead of cut, cut, cut they instead get to expand…It’s quite different than starting with a work like War & Peace…”
That paraphrases only one of many insights into today’s opera world from David Hanlon, the Chicago Opera Theater Conductor for their upcoming performance of The Scarlet Ibis. Hanlon was explaining the recent trend for those writing operas to start with short stories. Most memorably, he also likened the improbability these living opera composers face in getting their oeuvres produced, likening it to the chances of finding your ideal marriage partner compared to the ease of getting a casual date.
Mezzo-soprano Annie Rosen as brother, and countertenor Jordan Rutter as Doodle, accompanied by Josh Quinn on the piano
Hanlon shared the Newberry Library meeting hall stage with his colleague Elizabeth Margolius, the Stage and Movement Director for The Scarlet Ibis, answering questions by COT’s Music Director Lidiya Yankovskay. Interspersed with their teaser descriptions of how The Scarlet Ibis came to be, two performers from the upcoming production—mezzo-soprano Annie Rosen as brother and countertenor Jordan Rutter as Doodle, accompanied by Josh Quinn on the piano—performed short selections that indeed did convey the beauty of the music that snagged COT’s General Director Ashley Magnus when she first heard the piece at an Opera America Intensive workshop in 2014.
Chicago Opera Theater Expands the Opera to Studebaker Theater Scale
While not the world premiere per se, this upcoming performance of The Scarlet Ibis – the second staging ever—does sound like it’s the first full monty treatment. Because it is being held in the larger Studebaker Theater space than where it was first staged, Director Margolius was keen to have humans replace puppets and to also incorporate a dancer in this production as well. From the short samplings we heard, we know we are about to be transported to the swampy North Carolina lands and to see it through the eyes of a child with super-imagination.
How interesting to learn about how Margolius’ desire for having a plane on the stage morphed over time and in her collaborations with the set and lighting designers. She grasped that what she really wanted to show was flight and motion, and not a plane per se! How intriguing to also hear Margolius share her passion for working with living composers, and how she sought permission from librettist David Cote and composer Stefan Weisman for even the slightest modification such as making a plural “hands” into singular “hand”!
Creative Team for The Scarlet Ibis
Composer: Stefan Weisman
Librettist: David Cote
Conductor: David Hanlon
Stage Director: Elizabeth Margolius
Lighting Design: Charlie Cooper
Scenic Design: Jack Magaw
Costume Design: Brenda Winstead
Saturday, February 16, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, February 21, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, February 24, 3 p.m.
410 S. Michigan Ave
Annie Rosenas Brother, Jordan Rutter as Doodle, Quinn Middleman as Mother, Sharmay Musacchio as Aunt Nicey, Bill McMurray as Father and dancer Ginny Ngo.